The American Bar Association commissioned a report so critical of GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump and his history of filing libel lawsuits without merit that the organization reportedly pulled the piece in favor of a heavily censored version out of fear that Trump would sue them.
Now, the ABA has released the original version and denies that it sought to cover up parts of the story.
On Oct. 24, The New York Times reported that the ABA pulled the report, which concluded that the GOP presidential candidate is a "libel bully" and a "loser," and recommended making heavy edits to the headline, introduction and other key sections of the report.
"It is more than a little ironic that a publication dedicated to the exploration of First Amendment issues is subjected to censorship when it seeks to publish an article about threats to free speech," said David J. Bodney, who formerly chaired the ABA committee.
The report said Trump and his companies are associated with 4,000 lawsuits filed over the last 30 years, and frequently sent cease-and-desist letters to critics, according to Vox. Despite this, they have never won a single public court-filed cases relating to free speech.
Even so, the ABA pulled the article to ensure safety from a libel lawsuit, citing "inflammatory language that is unnecessary to further the article's thesis," and recommended softening the insults thrown at Trump, notes the Times.
ABA spokeswoman Carol Stevens said after the Times story broke that the association "did not refuse to publish" the report, according to The Washington Post.
The report's author, First Amendment lawyer Susan Seager, said she was granted permission to publish the article uncensored after she and her editors repeatedly requested to do so.
"I'm glad the ABA decided it was it wrong to censor my article, even if they don't have the courage to admit their mistake," Seager said. "The ABA should not be worried about being sued by Trump. I certainly am not. My article describing Donald J. Trump as a 'libel bully' and 'libel loser' is fully protected by the First Amendment because it is true and the Supreme Court has said we can use name-calling to criticize public figures."